NBA Playoffs and Awards Picks

Below are my picks for the different 2017-18 NBA awards, as well as the playoffs.  For the awards, note that this isn’t who I think will win but who I would pick if I had a vote.

MY NBA AWARDS

MVP – James Harden

Harden has been the frontrunner most of the season and gets the honor despite terrific closing stretches from Anthony Davis and LeBron James.  Harden helped Houston to a league-best 65 wins while leading the league in scoring and finishing third in assists.  And yes, he was a better defender than James this season.

Defensive Player of the Year – Rudy Gobert

Gobert should have earned the award last year, but like Harden, this should be the year where he finishes on top.  He has a stellar 97.7 defensive rating and led Utah to the West’s best offense.  All this despite missing 26 games, games in which the Jazz were nearly 13 points per possession worse defensively.

Rookie of the Year – Ben Simmons

To me, this one isn’t as close as some people are making it.  Donovan Mitchell had a great year, don’t get me wrong, but Simmons had a special year.  He was one of just three players (LeBron James and Russell Westbrook) who averaged at least 15 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists this season.  If you’re going to knock him for his shooting, fine.  But he shot 54.5 percent from the field, so he knows his limits at this point in his career and didn’t force shots.

Sixth Man of the Year – Lou Williams

Williams averaged careers highs in points (21.9) and assists (5.3) this season while player start-type minutes (31.5) off the bench.  The dude nearly made the All-Star Game.  This one’s in the bag.

Most Improved – Victor Oladipo

Oladipo was the surprise of the NBA season.  The Pacers were laughed at for the return they got for Paul George last summer, but Oladipo responded to criticism by upping his scoring from 15.9 points to 23.1, his assists from 2.6 to 4.3 and maybe most importantly, his field goal percentage to a career-best 47.7.

Coach of the Year – Nate McMillan

To me, the Coach of the Year isn’t someone who wins 60 games with 50-win talent.  It’s someone who overachieves with little or no talent.  If you thought the Pacers would be a top five team in the East, let alone a playoff team, before the season started you’d be lying.  McMillan lost Paul George, C.J. Miles, Jeff Teague and Monta Ellis from a team that finished seventh last season and got swept in the first round.  This was supposed to be a full-on rebuild, but instead McMillan guided Indiana to its best record in five years.

PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS

Eastern Conference

Raptors over Wizards in 6
Celtics over Bucks in 7
76ers over Heat in 7
Cavaliers over Pacers in 5

Raptors over Cavaliers in 6
76ers over Celtics in 6

Raptors over 76ers in 6

Western Conference

Rockets over Timberwolves in 5
Warriors over Spurs in 6
Blazers over Pelicans in 5
Jazz over Thunder in 6

Rockets over Jazz in 5
Warriors over Blazers in 6

Warriors over Rockets in 6

NBA Finals

Warriors over Raptors in 5

Yes, I did it.  I took Toronto to beat Cleveland.  It’s probably a dumb pick that I’ll regret, but I think this Raptors team, which has revamped its offense, will be able to score at will on Cleveland.  Even if LeBron James goes off, Toronto is equipped to win playoff shootouts now that they’ve gotten away from iso ball.

Meanwhile, I’m picking the Celtics to win a series even without Kyrie Irving.  When their backs are against the wall, Boston responds.  Brad Stevens will have a plan, and the Celtics have the length on the wing to bother Giannis Antetokounmpo.

I’m angry that the Jazz lost out on home court, because I think they’re better than the Thunder.  If that series goes 7, I’ll take the home team, which is why I picked Utah in 6.

Meanwhile, the Warriors’ playoff run just feels like a struggle, but regardless of how long Steph Curry is out, this team is still more talented than whoever they’ll face in the first two rounds.  Provided they have him back for the Western Conference Finals, they’re better than Houston too.

Comment below and let me know what you think.

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